Quick Points

What is Land Use?

Land use practices are the things (economic, social, cultural) that happen in a given area to designate the use and purpose of that land. Land use can be residential, industrial, agricultural, recreational, or commercial. Land use practices, Jim Crow housing segregation, and discriminatory zoning make it so that Black Americans disproportionately live in areas of high concentrated air, water, and land pollution. These practices also mean that people of color make up more than half the number of people who live near hazardous waste facilities.

What is Agriculture?

Agriculture has a deep history in North Carolina. When we talk about agriculture as it relates to environmental justice we’re often talking about the need for sustainable farming practices and for healthy working environments for agricultural workers. Sustainable farming means creating an energy-efficient system of farm production that meets human needs without compromising local ecosystems, the health of farmers, and the quality of life of livestock. 

Sustainable farming practices include:

  • Planting Hedges Along Plant Field Rows 
  • Rotating Crops & Encouraging Plant Diversity 
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM) 
  • Integrating Livestock with Crops 

A Closer Look: CAFOs

A problem with hazardous waste and agriculture in North Carolina is the use of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs.

  • What are CAFOs? CAFOs are large farms or corporate farms that have a high density of animals (> 1000) confined for at least 45 days a year. Any size Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) that discharges manure or wastewater into a natural or man-made ditch, large pool, stream, or other waterway is defined as a CAFO, regardless of size. 
  • Where are CAFOs found? There are thousands of CAFOs across North Carolina many of them are concentrated in the southeastern part of the state. A map and list of all permitted CAFOs can be viewed here:
  • Why are CAFOs concerning? Due to the confinement of many livestock, animal waste from CAFOs is stored in bulk and left untreated in large pools. The waste falls through slatted floors and is carried by pipe to a storage pit, the waste is then transferred into an open-air retention pond or “lagoon” that stores millions of gallons of animal waste. When these lagoons fill up, the animal waste is then sprayed as a fine mist into the air. This mist and smell can carry for miles, contaminating the air, water, and soil of neighboring residents. The effects of climate change, like hurricanes, high winds, and increased flooding, exacerbate exposure to this hazardous waste. 
  • More Information on Agriculture and Land Use: